Donald Trump has been compared to Benito Mussolini because of his authoritarian leanings. Both men underwent political transformations with Mussolini once being a "prominent socialist" and Trump once identifying more as a Democrat than as a conservative Republican.
Trump surely has authoritarian leanings and has expressed an admiration for such strongmen as Russian President Vladimir Putin calling him a "leader." Incredibly, when opining on the Tiananmen Square massacre Trump sided with the Chinese communist regime over the unarmed students frustrated by the slow pace of democratic and economic reform in their country.
"When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak... as being spit on by the rest of the world."
The Chinese regime however did not return the compliment. In a recent article the Beijing Review magazine argued that "Trump's rise had transformed the presidential race into "an unprecedented joke," using his candidacy as an example of the excesses of democracy.
More telling than his praise of authoritarian leaders and regimes together with their subsequent violent suppression of democratic movements, Trump advocated war crimes such as the extrajudicial killing of the family members of terrorists when saying:
"The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don't kid yourself. When they say they don't care about their lives, you have to take out their families."
Such remarkable disdain for the constitution, for international treaties, and the rule of law caused former CIA Director Michael Hayden to respond:
"God, no! Let me give you a punchline: If he were to order that once in government, the American armed forces would refuse to act. You cannot--you are not committed, you are not required, in fact you're required to not follow an unlawful order. That would be in violation of all the international laws of armed conflict. There would be a coup in this country."
Chillingly, Trump fired back during a Fox News debate: "They won't refuse. They're not gonna refuse me. Believe me." With typical bluster, he continued: "I'm a leader, I've always been a leader. I've never had any problem leading people. If I say do it, they're going to do it."
Trump is no fan of the freedom of the press either. Trump claimed:
"One of the things I'm gonna do, and this is only gonna make it tougher for me, and I've never said this before, but one of the things I'm gonna do if I win... is I'm gonna open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We're gonna open up those libel laws."
"With me, they're not protected, because I'm not like other people...We're gonna open up those libel laws, folks, and we're gonna have people sue you like you never get sued before."
However, in reality the president does not make libel laws. Almost all are state laws. But a demagogue like Trump who excludes certain members of the press because of criticism can have a chilling effect on the coverage by the remaining press corps.
Given these strong authoritarian tendencies which border on fascism, one wonders where Trump gets his base of support. According to Conor Lynch writing in Salon magazine:
"Matthew MacWilliams, who is a Ph.D. student at the University Massachusetts Amherst, conducted a survey back in December to figure out what exactly is behind Trump's success, and the results are distressing. "Running a standard statistical analysis," writes MacWilliams in Politico, "I found that education, income, gender, age, ideology and religiosity had no significant bearing on a Republican voter's preferred candidate. Only two of the variables I looked at were statistically significant: authoritarianism, followed by fear of terrorism, though the former was far more significant than the latter... Trump's electoral strength--and his staying power--have been buoyed, above all, by Americans with authoritarian inclinations."
Surely, Trump has little but disdain for the constitution and a profound misunderstanding that the military would follow the orders of the Commander-in-Chief no matter how unlawful based on the strength of the leader's personality and little else. The Chinese regime, Putin, and Mussolini himself would applaud!
Then he thinks the president should be able to sue the press in retaliation for negative coverage. So much for our former democracy!
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." Perhaps he did not anticipate the rise of a Donald Trump or the strong authoritarian leanings of the conservative base. On the other hand, perhaps he would see such a cartoonish buffoon as a blemish on an otherwise imperfect system, but one that progresses, however slowly, toward justice and tolerance.
The important thing is to deny Trump the chance to shred the constitution and use it as carpeting at one of his magnificent towers. We deserve better! Vote!